I Take Your Milkshake

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


The Maiden Speech (detail), by Thomas Rowlandson, 1785. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1959.

Last week a McDonald’s in Edinburgh announced it was temporarily suspending the sale of both ice cream and milkshakes at the behest of the police. The McDonald’s is close to the site of a pro-Brexit rally politician Nigel Farage held the evening of May 17. Food-flinging as an expression of dissent is not a novel concept—Greece, for example, has yaourtama, the act of throwing yogurt in political protest, invented by a group of young men in the 1950s. Politicians have since become wise to the dangers of food as protest projectile. As the BBC reports, the decision to ban milk-based dessert sales in the area seems to have been inspired by earlier incidents.

Some politicians have had milkshakes thrown at them during campaigning.

Earlier this month a video of English Defence League founder Tommy Robison being struck by milkshake during a visit to Warrington, Cheshire, was widely shared online.

Ukip candidate Carl Benjamin was also targeted at a rally in Cornwall.

After the police’s intervention in Edinburgh, Burger King’s UK Twitter account posted: “Dear people of Scotland. We’re selling milkshakes all weekend. Have fun. Love BK #justsaying.”


The Egg (detail), by Odilon Redon, 1885. Art Institute of Chicago, The Stickney Collection.

While the practice of throwing food to express displeasure with a politician goes back to at least c. 63, when an angry crowd in Hadrumetum pelted their Roman governor Vespasian with turnips, it gained special prominence in the nineteenth century, when rotten eggs became the projectile of choice. Even royalty was not immune. In October 1885, Queen Victoria’s son-in-law, the Marquis of Lorne, campaigning as the liberal candidate for Hempstead, went to the town of Brentford, seven miles west of London. During his speech, the crowd began throwing rotten eggs at him. The New York Tribune reported that some of the mob climbed onto the platform and “smashed his hat over his head.” 

The supporters of the marquis rushed to his rescue, and a fight ensued. The marquis now became so thoroughly frightened that he hastily departed from the scene, ran through the streets in a drenching rain to the railway station, and immediately departed for London. Meanwhile the row continued, the supporters of the marquis being severely handled, and becoming discouraged at their desertion by their champion they finally retreated, leaving their contestants masters of the field. The latter then seized the platform and passed a resolution condemning the policy of the liberals.